OYSTERS AND PEARLS

As you may know, I’m a little bit dreamy. Until my arrival in French Polynesia, I was still believing pearls were small treasures found randomly in oysters.

 
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  The pearl farm.

The pearl farm.

Error. The pearl of Tahiti, formerly known as black pearl, is the main economic activity of the country. No need of chance to find a pearl. All you need is money. The prices vary according to the quality. I’ll tell you more about it next month.

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  Gigi poses proudly with some pearls collected in the farm.

Gigi poses proudly with some pearls collected in the farm.

During my trip in the atoll of Raoria in the Tuamotu, I was lucky enough to visit a pearl farm. Gigi, foreman, gave me access to the installations. At first, it is necessary to know that the creation of pearls is caused by human, rarely by nature.

 
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  When oysters are removed from water, an employee has to clean the outside with an immense knife

When oysters are removed from water, an employee has to clean the outside with an immense knife

By means of instruments, employees make a section in the reproductive organ of the oyster, insert a transplant (piece of mother-of-pearl), then do the same with a small ball. This ball, which is generally imported from Asia, is formed by pieces of oyster. Then, they send back the oyster in the water for a period varying from 12 to 16 months. Once this time is over, the oyster produce a pearl.

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  A speculum is used to maintain the open oyster when we proceed to the transplant.

A speculum is used to maintain the open oyster when we proceed to the transplant.

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  Several factors influence the value of pearls, among which the thickness, the color and the luster.

Several factors influence the value of pearls, among which the thickness, the color and the luster.

Several factors influence the quality of the pearl, among which the temperature and the cleanliness of the water. Every atoll produces moreover a pearl with distinctive characteristics. As an example, the pearls from the north are very dark. In contrast, those collected in the south are beautifully colored.

Next month, we’ll go pearls shopping in Tahiti.


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